Relatively (im) material: mtDNA and genetic relatedness in law and policy

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Mitochondrial donation poses the latest regulatory challenge for policy-makers in the context of assisted conception. Since 2010 the Human Genetics Commission, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics have all considered the policy implications of permitting use of these techniques in treatment. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics reported its recommendations in June 2012 following a consultation on the ethical issues raised by these techniques; and a separate consultation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in conjunction with Sciencewise-ERC followed in September 2012. Matters for consideration included the potential relationships created by the use of three parties’ genetic material and the associated ramifications, eg whether or not there is a need to establish records of such donations and, if so, to whom should information later be provided? Thus, mitochondrial donation poses both novel and familiar questions about the ‘genetic family’, ‘parentage’ and ‘identity’. This article explores some of the ways in which mitochondrial DNA is constructed as relatively (in) significant in recent Parliamentary debates, policy and consultation documents. It reflects on the ways in which the role of some genetic connections, or lack thereof, are mediated in law and policy.




Jones, C., & Holme, I. (2013). Relatively (im) material: mtDNA and genetic relatedness in law and policy. Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 9(1).

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